Best of Machu Picchu
Royal Tomb and Temple of the Sun: This semicircular Temple of the Sun aligns perfectly with the movement of the sun and sits on top of a cave, which the Inca transformed into a sinuous mastery of stone. This cave may have once contained the revered mummy of Inca Pachacútec, the Inca’s most powerful and famed ruler.
Intihuatana: Experts continue to debate over the meaning of this carved stone. There are theories that it’s a sun dial, sacrificial altar, or a temple to the surrounding mountain gods. There is no question that it is a profoundly beautiful and spiritual stone sculpture, perhaps the first example of truly abstract sculpture in world history.
Temple of the Moon and Huayna Picchu: Towering above Machu Picchu is the summit of Huayna Picchu, a sacred summit reached via a two-hour hike up stairs, switchbacks, and, for the final bit, a ladder. Nearby is the enigmatic Temple of the Moon. This natural cave, sculpted with curving stone walls, is the energetic counterpart to Machu Picchu.
Inca Trail: For those who hike it, this sacred path is part trek, part religious pilgrimage. It winds down from the windswept mountains to lush cloud forest, passing 30 ruins along the way, then reaching Machu Picchu.
Two-Day Inca Trail: A great option for those short on time, or not wanting to camp, is the two-day version of the Inca Trail. This hike includes some spectacular ruins and the glorious entry to Machu Picchu via the Inti Punku, or Sun Gate.
Salcantay Trek to Machu Picchu: This five-day option does not have the stone paths or Inca ruins of the Inca Trail, but does offer stunning views of snow-covered mountains and a true wilderness appeal. This is the way to arrive at Machu Picchu for hard-core trekkers wanting to get a taste of the high Andes.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition